Rock en Seine cancels, French organisers get creative
France’s Rock en Seine has been called off, following the government’s announcement that festivals would be restricted to 5,000 seated and socially distanced attendees.
The Paris festival, which typically welcomes 120,000 festivalgoers each year, was set to take place between 27–29 August 2021, though the line-up had not been announced.
In a statement, the organisers say: “Even with the greatest optimism, given the health restrictions in place today we know that the event we want to create and experience sadly cannot take place this year.”
The French government announced the framework for the 2021 festival season back in February, along with a €30 million fund.
The aid was launched to compensate organisers – both for losses incurred due to the implementation of alternative formats and in the event that festivals are cancelled due to an increasing Covid-19 infection rate.
Many French organisers have already jumped at the chance to implement an alternative event, including the country’s largest festival, the Vieilles Charrues (Old Plows).
The festival will host an intimate concert series at the Parc du Château in its home region of Brittany between 8–18 July 2021.
“Even with the greatest optimism, given the health restrictions in place today we know that the event cannot take place this year”
The series will comprise 10 evenings concerts featuring 30 domestic artists including Vianney, Woodkid and Pomme. See the full line-up here.
Live Nation’s Main Square festival is also planning a concert series, which will comprise eight concerts in eight ’emblematic places’ of Hauts-de-France, the northernmost region of France. See the line-up and the list of locations here.
Those who have purchased tickets to the 2020, 2021 or 2022 editions of the Arras-based festival will have the opportunity to attend the six shows free of charge, in strict compliance with the current restrictions.
All six concerts will be filmed and broadcast online on the festival’s official website as well as on its social networks and those of its partners, on July 2, 3 and 4 – when the flagship festival would’ve taken place.
Elsewhere, in the French festival market, Eurockéennes says it is “now imagining the different possible options to offer another project, in a new format and adapted to the framework that will be imposed on us” though no further details have emerged.
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French festivalgoers unwilling to attend seated festivals
The majority of French festivalgoers would not be willing to attend Eurockéennes de Belfort 2021 if they were required to be seated for the duration, according to a survey conducted by the festival.
The survey aimed to find whether festivalgoers would be willing to attend this summer’s edition with the restrictions recently announced by the government.
The restrictions, announced at the end of last month, require both indoor and outdoor festivals to limit attendance to 5,000 people, who must be seated and socially distanced.
The survey attracted 21,418 respondents, 72% of which said they would not be willing to attend a seated version of Eurockéennes this year.
One per cent of respondents did not answer the questions but 27% of respondents (around 6,000 people) said they would be willing to attend, which is more than the capacity limit.
Almost half of the respondents (48%) said they would not be willing to attend this year’s festival if social distancing was imposed and 73% would not attend if refreshments were not available.
Almost half of the respondents said they would not be willing to attend this year’s festival if social distancing was imposed
However, the majority of festivalgoers would agree to wear a mask (72%) and present results of a Covid-19 screening test for access to the festival (69%).
Eurockéennes, which was cancelled in 2020, is due to take place from 1 to 4 July this year, featuring acts including Massive Attack, the Lumineers, Foals, Simple Minds and Diplo. The 2019 edition was attended by 130,000 people.
Though the minister for culture, Roselyne Bachelot, announced a €30 million compensation fund for organisers alongside the restrictions, the French live industry has criticised the framework.
France’s trade union, the SMA (Syndicat des Musiques Actuelles), said “a seated event bringing together 5,000 maximum people, perhaps without access to the bar or the restaurant, cannot be called a festival”.
AEG Presents France GM and VP, Arnaud Meerseeman, said the “loose framework” and the issues it presents “points to another empty season”.
French metal festival Hellfest Open Air (cap. 60,000) was the first major French festival to cancel, saying that “to accept these overly restrictive rules would go against the very DNA of the festival”.
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French biz pushes for full capacity shows by Sept
Over 3,000 members of the French live music industry have signed an open letter to the government, asking for “clear and coherent” forecasts on the reopening of the sector after more than four months of shutdown.
In the letter, French industry professionals including concert promoters, venue owners, technicians, service providers, producers, artists, freelance workers and others, ask for a decision from the government regarding a possible date for the resumption of standing shows.
“As we can no longer live in a state of expectation, we ask you for clear and coherent scenarios and deadlines so that we can work to restart our activities.”
The industry representatives say they are committed to restarting shows at 100% capacity from 1 September, but state this date is getting increasingly difficult to envisage due to issues related to programming and the organisation of tours.
The live professionals also state they have “demonstrated our sense of responsibility and our ability to rigorously apply government decisions and regulatory framework”, as well as submitting “concrete proposals” with a view to working with the government to restart business.
“As we can no longer live in a state of expectation, we ask you for clear and coherent scenarios and deadlines so that we can work to restart our activities”
However, unlike other French sectors such as sport and hospitality, the live music business has not received a concrete timetable for reopening.
“Nobody understands the silence concerning us,” say the industry representatives, “starting with the public who question us insistently and who tell us their desire to go back to concerts.”
“We feel abandoned and despised by our public partners.”
The number of signatories of the letter has more than doubled since being sent to French president Emmanual Macron, prime minister Jean Castex and culture minister Roselyne Bachelot on Thursday (23 July), with festivals Hellfest Open Air, Eurockéennes de Belfort, Les Rencontres Trans Musicales de Rennes and Vieilles Charrues; venues the Bataclan and Zénith Paris; and trade union Syndicat des Musiques Actuelles (SMA) and industry body Prodiss among those to show their support.
Large-scale events (over 5,000 capacity) are currently banned in France until September. Social distancing measures are still in place for all shows, with masks obligatory at indoor venues from 1 August.
The letter is available to read in full here.
This article forms part of IQ’s Covid-19 resource centre – a knowledge hub of essential guidance and updating resources for uncertain times.
Macron: No French festivals until mid-July
French festival favourites including Eurockéennes de Belfort, Solidays, Festival d’Avignon and Main Square are no longer taking place this year, as the government extends its ban on large gatherings until mid-July at the earliest.
French president Emmanuel Macron announced yesterday (13 April) that the country’s lockdown will last until 11 May, with schools and day centres reopening on that date. However, many businesses including restaurants, bars, music venues, and theatres will remain shuttered.
No festivals or other public events are expected to take place until “at least mid-July”.
The cancellations of Eurockéennes, Solidays and Festival d’Avignon add to those of fellow French festivals Hellfest and Lollapalooza Paris, which were called off last week. The Stockholm edition of the Lollapalooza festival brand was also cancelled last week, although the franchise’s Berlin event is going ahead from 5 to 6 September.
“From the very first news of the lockdown, this cancellation seemed unavoidable,” reads a statement from the organisers of Eurockéennes, winner of the best festival award at this year’s Arthurs.
The event, which was attended by 130,000 people in 2019, was due to take place from 2 to 4 July, featuring acts including Massive Attack, the Lumineers, Foals, Burna Boy, Cage the Elephant and Marc Rebillet. Refund information will be available from 20 April.
“It has now become a reality. Unfortunately this cancellation presents some serious questions about the future of the festival and of (non-profit festival organiser) Territoire de Musiques. Facing a complex financial situation, Eurockéennes will suffer long-term from this dark year.”
“The decision to cancel the festival is one of the most difficult ones we have ever had to make”
Main Square festival, due to take place from 3 to 5 July in the city of Arras, is another event to lose its 2020 edition. “This is obviously a blow to all of us, but your enthusiasm gives us the energy we need to offer you next year what will be the most beautiful edition of the festival in Arras,” reads a statement from organisers.
Sting, Twenty One Pilots, Tones and I, Black Eyed Peas, Sum 41 and Roger Hodgson were among artists billed to play the sold-out event. Tickets will remain valid for the 2021 event, with details of the refund process to be announced in coming weeks.
Solidays festival (70,000-cap.), scheduled to take place at Paris’ Longchamp Hippodrome from 19 to 21 June featuring Anderson Paak, Aya Nakamura, Black Eyed Peas and Metronomy, also announced its cancellation following Macron’s announcement.
Refunds will be available from the start of May, say organisers, adding that, given the situation, “perhaps some will choose not to ask for one”.
Festival d’Avignon, a multi-venue festival of theatre due to take place from 3 to 23 July across the city of Avignon, is another to cancel due to the ban extension, with organisers saying: “We have held out hope for as long as it was possible but the situation has called for another outcome. Our duty now is to preserve and invent the future of Avignon Festival.”
The drama festival was set to celebrate its 74th outing in 2020.
Other French festivals including Festival de Nîmes, scheduled from 16 June to 24 July, Lyon’s Nuits Sonores, which was initially postponed from the end of May until 22 to 26 July, and Vieilles Charrues, set for 16 to 19 July, have also called off their 2020 outings.
Arthur Awards 2020: All the winners
The 26th annual Arthur Awards, the live music industry’s equivalent of the Oscars, took place at London’s Sheraton Grand Park Lane hotel last night. The awards, which take place as part of the ongoing International Live Music Conference (ILMC), honoured the industry’s best and brightest across 11 awards categories.
The prizes were handed out during the Arthur Awards Winners’ Dinner, hosted by CAA’s Emma Banks, who took to the stage in a full hazmat suit and gas mask emblazoned with the letters CAA across her back in hazard warning tape.
As the evening culminated with The Bottle Award, the unique industry achievement gong, Emma was invited back on stage to receive it, to loud applause and a standing ovation. “If I should say anything, it’s that we should all pick up the phone more,” she said. “You can’t have a relationship via text message or Whatsapp. We need to speak to each, to be more nice to each other.”
It was a successful night all round for CAA, as Summer Marshall won the Second Least Offensive Agent award.
The prizes were handed out during the Arthur Awards Winners’ Dinner, hosted by CAA’s Emma Banks
Elsewhere, Live Nation’s Kelly Chappel took the best promoter gong, French festival Eurockéennes was crowned best festival, All Points East won best new event, London’s Roundhouse received the best venue award and Charly Beedell-Tuck from Solo Agency won the Tomorrow’s New Boss award, which recognises the industry’s most promising new business talent.
Notably, all Arthurs for individuals – the prizes for best assistant, professional services, new business talent, agent and promoter, as well as the Bottle award – went to women.
The full list of winners is below:
Venue (First Venue To Come Into Your Head)
Promoter (The Promoters’ Promoter)
Kelly Chappel, Live Nation
Festival (Liggers’ Favourite Festival)
Agent (Second Least Offensive Agent)
Summer Marshall, CAA
Production Services (Services Above and Beyond)
Professional Services (Most Professional Professional)
Tina Richard, T&S Immigration Services
New Gig on the Block (New Event)
All Points East, UK
Assistant (The People’s Assistant)
San Phillips, Kilimanjaro Live
Ticketing (The Golden Ticket)
New Business Talent (Tomorrow’s New Boss)
Charly Beedell-Tuck, Solo
The Bottle Award
Emma Banks, CAA
Prior to the Arthurs, ILMC head Greg Parmley presented two special ILMC Medal of Honour awards for longstanding service to the organisation. Production manager Bill Martin and agenda consultant Allan McGowan were both invited to the stage. “Bill is nothing short of a magician,” Parmley said, “He juggles set design, lighting, stands, stages, and a hundred other elements to make the conference and this dinner happen every year.”
And speaking of McGowan, he said, “Across two decades, Allan has been a central figure in all of ILMC’s panels, putting hundreds of them together. And for ten years, his role as associate editor on IQ was instrumental in the magazine’s growth.”
European festivals, associations report 2019 slowdown
Mainland Europe’s music festivals are experiencing a similarly slow season to their counterparts in Britain, hurt by repetitive line-ups, rising ticket prices and – potentially – wider societal changes in entertainment consumption, according to festival associations and operators.
IQ revealed last month that many UK festivals are bracing for a quieter-than-normal summer, with sell-outs down amid economic uncertainty and difficulty in differentiating themselves from the competition.
That’s also the case on the continent, says Christof Huber, festival director of Switzerland’s OpenAir St Gallen and general secretary of Yourope, the European Festival Association. “It’s definitely slower than in previous festival seasons,” says Huber, who says he thinks there are fewer sell-outs compared to previous years.
“I am afraid this is a real trend,” says Jean-Paul Roland, festival director of Eurockéennes, one of the biggest rock festivals in France. Roland – who is also co-president of festival association De Concert! with Les Nuits Botanique’s Paul-Henri Wauters – explains that, in France, the success of metal festival Hellfest (which sold 55,000 tickets in two hours) is an exception, playing “the role of the tree that hides the forest”.
“Paleo in Switzerland and Vieilles Charrues in France are usually sold out very quickly always. Biarritz En Été [also in France] threw in the towel for lack of sufficient reservations. Indeed, the season seems more subdued than last year: later sales, more difficulties to reach a point of profitability…”
This was illustrated earlier this week by the surprise cancellation of the revived Doctor Music Festival, with promoter Doctor Music pulling the plug due to low ticket sales after the event was forced to move by Catalonia’s environment agency.
“The market has been quite saturated for a few years”
Doctor Music head Neo Sala described the cancellation as “the toughest decision of my promoter career”, but said the number of fans who had returned the tickets for refunds – coupled with slower-than-expected sales for its new location at the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya racetrack – meant the headliner-heavy festival (the Strokes, the Smashing Pumpkins, the Chemical Brothers, the Prodigy and Christine and the Queens were all booked to perform) “won’t be able to offer the experience we were striving for”.
While independent, non-corporate events are believed to have been hardest hit by the slowdown – a senior exec at one of the multinationals tells IQ it has a “couple” of festivals underperforming, “but no more than usual” – Folkert Koopmans, CEO of European festival powerhouse FKP Scorpio, says, to his knowledge, “it’s the same everywhere. There are a few that are sold out, but it’s not like it used to be before.”
Roland says rising artist fees (what the AIF’s Paul Reed recently described as the headliner “arms race”) are making major international stars “more inaccessible” to many European events.
“The summer circuit in North and South America is becoming more structured and competitive, and that captures the international headliners in the summer, which results in less and less differentiated line-ups,” he explains. In France especially, this means “often the same Francophone artists are [headlining lots of] different festivals”, with festival ticket sales increasing “shifting to major theme parks”.
“My personal view is that the market has been quite saturated for a few years,” says Huber. “Also, the same headliners return too often and sometimes play multiple festival seasons.”
“We need to see what is happening, what people want, and adapt to those changes”
This, combined with more expensive tickets, has “led to the point that sales got slower”, he adds.
Koopmans suggests the soft summer is a symptom of wider demographic changes that will have an impact on the business for years to come. “It’s changing and we have to adapt,” he says. “When we were young, we were fans of music – we’d buy the records, spend hours looking at the sleeves – but young people now are more into gaming and other things. They’ll hear a song they like, then swap to another song – they’re not willing to spend so much money on music anymore.
“For example, they’ll go to an EDM festival because they can dance to the music, and they don’t mind going to smaller, one-day events that are €49. But not €200…”
The perception of a general slowdown isn’t being felt in other areas, with the world music genre faring better, suggests Patrick de Groote, the artistic director of the Sfinks Mixed arts festival in Boechout, Belgium, and secretary of the Forum of Worldwide Music Festivals (FWMW).
Roland agrees with Huber that the popular music market is saturated, saying De Concert!’s events are being negatively affected by increased competition, especially the “multiplication of small regional festivals, often at low prices or free, which offer more conviviality, more proximity and less security than the big festivals”.
“Small regional festivals, often at low prices or free, offer more conviviality, more proximity and less security…”
He adds that, in addition to competition from smaller festivals and theme parks, stadium events are taking away marketshare: the likes of Metallica, Muse and French-Canadian star Mylène Farmer all play stadium shows throughout this summer, which “makes festivals’ programmes less exceptional”.
Koopmans says festival operators are being forced to accept that traditional camping festivals – with a few honourable exceptions – “aren’t the hip thing anymore”, with people preferring to go to headline shows and one-day events.
“The festival market is still there, and it will continue to exist – Hurricane and Southside, for example, have great line-ups, and they’ll work this year – but in general it’s a challenge,” he explains. “Over the next few years we need to see what is happening, what people want, and adapt to those changes.
“Touring is stronger than ever before – people love to go to shows. But there’s been a change across the whole society, about what you do when you’re young and how you spend your money. We’re an entertainment company, and we need to entertain people in the way they want to be entertained.”
IQ’s own analysis of Europe’s festival market, the annual European Festival Report, will return in the end-of-year issue #87, providing an in-depth look at capacity and attendance, ticketing and pricing, VIP sales, challenges and concerns, new technology and more.
Read the 2018 European Festival Report here.
Pigasse buys Rock en Seine, launches live outfit
Investment banker Matthieu Pigasse has bought Rock en Seine, one of France’s biggest music festivals, from its founders, François Missonnier, Christophe Davy and Salomon Hazot.
Pigasse, profiled by the The Wall Street Journal as the “rock star of finance”, already has a personal interest in rival festival Eurockéennes de Belfort, of which he is chair, and – through the LNEI (Les Nouvelles Éditions indépendantes) holding company – the inRocKs festivals and the Nuits Zébrées concert series by Radio Nova.
Pigasse (pictured) owns both Les Inrockuptibles and Radio Nova, along with stakes in the Le Monde newspaper, The Huffington Post France and, through his Mediawan investment vehicle, pay-TV giant Groupe AB.
Speaking to AFP, Pigasse says Rock en Seine will form the basis of a new live music division, LNEI Live, comprising Rock en Seine, inRocKs and Nuits Zébrées.
While Missonnier has been confirmed as the head of LNEI Live, Davy’s role in the new set-up is unclear. (IQ has contacted him for comment.) Hazot, meanwhile, is now president of Live Nation France, which has its own plans for the French festival market, launching in the past few years local editions of Download and Lollapalooza.
“We want to become a major player in France and in Europe, with other acquisitions to come”
The 2016 edition of Rock en Seine, established in 2003, was attended by 110,000 people amid a strong showing for the French festival sector as a whole.
Pigasse tells AFP part of the appeal of buying Rock en Seine is that it’s a “favourite” of his. “I would not buy [comedy radio station] Rire et Chansons or Radio Nostalgie,” he says.
“But the acquisition of the festival is also at the heart of the strategy of LNEI, which wants to become a leader in the production of premium content.”
He adds that the acquisition of Rock en Seine is only the beginning of LNEI’s festival plans, hinting at the building of a European festival portfolio to rival that of the likes of Live Nation, DEAG, CTS Eventim or, closer to home, Miala, which is led by Arnaud Meersseman – formerly at Nous Productions with Hazot – and backed by €2.6bn French investment vehicle Fimalac.
“We want to become a major player in France and in Europe, with other acquisitions to come,” he continues. “There are a lot of festivals in eastern and northern Europe…”
Commenting on the deal, Missonnier echoes Isle of Wight Festival promoter John Giddings, who recently sold to Live Nation, by saying Rock en Seine needed to be part of a larger entity in order to stay competitive. “After 15 years our project is doing very well, but we have reached the limits of what we could achieve alone,” he comments. “By integrating with LNEI, Rock en Seine will benefit from increased resources.”